The executive director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality announced his resignation last Friday, effective the day before the MDEQ board is set to vote on a controversial third landfill in Madison County.

Gary Rikard announced he is stepping down as head of the agency on Jan. 13. The MDEQ permit board is set to vote on the third landfill Jan. 14.

It is unknown at this time whether or not Rikard’s resignation would affect the vote and attempts to contact him were unsuccessful. 

If the board approves the permit, it will bring developer NCL, LLC one step closer to constructing the county’s third landfill on North County Line Road, directly north of the existing Little Dixie Landfill.

The up-or-down vote on NCL’s permit was originally scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 10, but was tabled after a five-hour hearing on the matter.

Now, the decision is likely to come in the midst of a transfer of power from Gov. Phil Bryant to Gov.-elect Tate Reeves, who is scheduled to be inaugurated at noon on Tuesday just blocks away from the site of the permit board meeting.

The makeup of the board is likely to change with the new administration, although Reeves is not expected to appoint board members or hire a new executive for the agency until after his inauguration.

At the December meeting, the board, which is made up of representatives of various state agencies, heard a report from MDEQ staff representative Trent Jones. Jones serves as head of the agency’s Solid Waste Policy, Planning and Grants Branch.

Jones told the board that MDEQ staff had found NCL’s application to be both complete and environmentally satisfactory.

NCL attorney Johnny Brunnini and NFL star Deuce McAllister, along with a handful of others, also spoke in support of the landfill.

But more than 20 others who attended the meeting spoke out against to the proposed project. That number included five representatives from the City of Ridgeland, which has spearheaded the opposition.

Ultimately, enough board members cited “lingering questions” about the project to justify putting off the decision for a month. Those questions include concerns over the Woodland Springs subdivision - a platted subdivision with 20 homes located less than one mile from the proposed site of the dump - and other environmental issues.

Tuesday’s scheduled meeting is set to stand in stark contrast to that first meeting. Board President Jennifer Wittman warned attendees that the January meeting will not include public comment or debate as the public hearing did. Board members, she said, will receive the answers to lingering questions and then participate in an up-or-down vote.